Colleges pitch in to support startups

Posted on Feb 27, 2019 :: Commentary
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Colleges and universities across the New North are showing the rest of us the benefits of working more collaboratively.

The Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA) was born in the early 2000s as leaders recognized that by working together, educational institutions could eliminate barriers so residents could get the education and training they needed when they needed it. NEW ERA’s successes led to other sectors, including manufacturing and economic development, to begin their own collaborative partnerships.

Since NEW ERA was created, four-year universities, two-year campuses and technical colleges have come together to offer countless programs to help students start a degree at a two-year institution before moving seamlessly to a four-year university. Schools also have worked together on degree programs to meet the demands of area businesses and students.

Now, the Fox Connection — a collaboration of colleges and universities in Northeast Wisconsin working together to enhance entrepreneurial education and opportunity for students — is hosting The Pitch competition.

The Pitch is a startup contest among teams of college students who are competing for $10,000 in cash and $15,000 in technical services. As part of the program, teams compete at their local colleges, with the winners moving on to The Pitch event on April 11 at TitletownTech in Green Bay. There, the teams will present their ideas in front of an audience to a panel of judges in a format similar to ABC’s “Shark Tank” show.

Six schools are participating in this year’s event: Lawrence University, St. Norbert College, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

In addition to partnering on The Pitch, the colleges and universities that are part of the Fox Connection share their curriculum related to entrepreneurship with each other. By doing this, the schools create more opportunities for all students.

At a time when there is a lot of discussion about what can be done to grow and strengthen the entrepreneurial climate in the New North, it is interesting to see what regional educators are doing — sharing their unique resources and strengths for the entire region’s benefit. Perhaps it is something that can be duplicated by the many organizations involved in promoting and strengthening startups and entrepreneurs — but on a larger, more expansive scale.